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Mullen-Johnson: Combating Negative Thoughts

By Crystal Mullen-Johnson

Given all the chaos going on around us, it is imperative to focus on the positive. War, COVID-19, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and other similar stressful conditions can cause one to have a deluge of negative thoughts. Perceptions about these events can significantly impact your mental health if you allow it to.

Negative thoughts are referred to as cognitive distortions.  The term cognitive refers to thinking and distortions are misrepresentations of thoughts. Everyone experiences cognitive distortions, but in some cases, they are extreme, resulting in a depressed mood, anxiety, and relationship impairments. These negative thoughts, cognitive distortions, are perceptions of oneself, others, and the external world. Many people think their thoughts are true, however, if they search for evidence of the veracity of their thoughts, they may realize their thoughts are not based on reality.

If one pays attention to their triggers, they may recognize reoccurring negative thought patterns. Negative thoughts impact one’s moods and behavioral responses.  Therefore, it is critical to focus on the things over which one has control and not fixate on things over which one does not have control.

As a clinical therapist, I have trained myself how to respond when negative thoughts invade my mind. When this occurs, I am intentional about turning them into positive thoughts through the practice of good mental health. I investigate my thoughts by answering the question of whether this thought is healthy or unhealthy.  I also look for evidence to support my thoughts. I also encourage my clients to engage in this practice to improve their mood, thoughtful decision making, and increased mental and physical health.

Here are effective strategies you can use to combat your negative thoughts:

Don’t ruminate about past mistakes:

Focusing on past mistakes can be counterproductive and discouraging. You cannot change your past, but you can grow from your past experiences. Focus on your strengths instead of on your weaknesses. Challenge yourself to learn from your past by asking yourself, “What has my past taught me?”

Establish boundaries:

Creating boundaries around electronic devices can reduce exposure to people and stimuli that create negative thoughts.  Spending time with positive people can impact your thinking. Spending time with negative people can also impact your thinking, but in the wrong direction. Additionally, those negative people and their opinions could potentially influence your mood, in a negative direction.   Establishing boundaries reduces negative social comparisons, low self-esteem, and worry tendencies.

Practice positive affirmations:

Positive affirmations increase self-confidence because they are encouraging statements. Write down daily affirmations to review throughout your day to boost your mood and improve your thoughts.

Give Yourself Grace:

Practice self-forgiveness while focusing on being the best version of yourself each day. Do not hold yourself to a standard that is unattainable. Set realistic goals and practice patience.

When you find yourself in a downward spiral of thinking, recognize you have control over your thoughts. You control your personal growth.  If you need support improving your thoughts, contact a licensed mental health professional for therapy. Therapy provides the tools to improve your thoughts and decision making.

If we are the sum total of our thoughts, then from this day forward, let us become positive, graceful, forgiving, and thoughtful. You will enjoy your journey much more if you view life from a lens of positivity! Strive to be a healthier YOU!

Crystal Mullen-Johnson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Play Therapist in Birmingham, AL with more than 16 years of experience in providing counseling. She is the owner and founder of Strive Counseling Services a private practice located in downtown Birmingham that offers therapeutic mental health services to children (play therapy), adolescents, and adults. Strive offers evidence-based therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Contact us at (205) 721-9893 to inquire about Telehealth Services or visit www.strivebhm.com

She is a published author of the, “21 Day Journey to Strive for a Healthier You” and Founder/President of Nurture, LLC, a non-profit organization in Birmingham, AL. Learn more about nurture by visiting www.nurturebham.com